Complexions, 'America's first multicultural ballet company,' returns to Detroit

Jun 30, 2015 at 10:39 am
click to enlarge Complexions, 'America's first multicultural ballet company,' returns to Detroit
Photo courtesy of WSU

For more than 20 years, New York’s Complexions dance company has sought to redefine ballet for a contemporary audience. Billed as America's first truly multicultural ballet company, Complexions eschews ideas often associated with the dance form — petite ballerinas, classical music, a certain stuffy attitude about "high art" — in favor of embracing a diversity of body types and musical influences, from hip-hop to pop and traditional African dance.

Each year, the company brings its Summer Intensive program to Wayne State University in Detroit, where students learn Complexions repertoire. Complexions has a long history with the Motor City— when the company lost funding due to Sept. 11's wake of financial turmoil, Wayne State benefactor Maggie Allesee helped out.

The two-week program doesn't hold auditions — dancers are placed in one of four studios depending on ability. Expect a raw performance, with dancers donning more informal streetwear like leotards and bike shorts instead of tutus and costumes.

“They have all colors of the spectrum, all shapes and sizes — as long as they’re fierce dancers,” Detroit Summer Intensive program director Meg Paul told us last year. “It’s about being in your best body. It’s not about being super-skinny; it’s about being healthy. They break through a lot of those old-school types of thinking.”

The Complexions Detroit Summer Intensive Student Showcase starts at 3 p.m. on Friday, July 3 at Music Hall Center for The Performing Arts; 350 Madison St., Detroit; 313-887-8501;; $20 adults, $10 students.

Read our interview with Meg Paul, a ballet lecturer at Wayne State University who is also the program director for Complexions’ Detroit Summer Intensive, here, or watch a preview video from last year's event below:

Promo 2014-Full HD from complexions on Vimeo.